The Responsorial (Psalm 119) asks: “Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.”
1Maccabees 1:10-64 presents us with the classic Christian choice, which is common to everyone who values fidelity to God, to principles, or even personal freedom over the rewards and punishments those in power can mete out. It is the choice between fidelity and conformity. The refusal to conform, even to the expectations of one’s culture or peer group, carries a price. Nonconformity costs. Sometimes it just costs promotions, prosperity, or friendships we thought were authentic. At other times, as in the story of the Maccabees, the cost is life itself. This brings us to the Rite of Communion.
We could identify different moments as the climactic moment of this part of the Mass. In terms of individual, personal experience, it might be the moment of receiving Christ’s Body and Blood. In relation to the Mass as a whole, it might be the moment when we are sent out as stewards, encouraged and empowered by the Eucharist, to “renew the face of the earth”—Ite! Missa est!—a phrase no one has ever been able to explain satisfactorily, but which everyone agrees means, “Go, you are sent.”
If “missa” is a feminine past participle, the full phrase could be “Ite! Ecclesia missa est”: “Go! The Church—or the communitas, the assembly—is sent forth.” If we take missa for a noun meaning “Mass,” then the phrase just means, “The Mass is. That’s it. It’s done.” But the word “Mass” may come from “missa est” instead of vice-versa
If we look at the climax of the Rite of Communion in terms of public proclamation, it comes with the “third elevation,” when the presider holds up the Body and Blood of Christ for the third time before the eyes of the assembly and proclaims: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9. The liturgy inexplicably deletes “marriage” from the text. It may have been a copyist’s error centuries ago that nobody noticed).
This is, in effect, the Church’s triumphant shout in the face of every threat: imprisonment, persecution, death itself. What it actually proclaims is, “Blessed are those who are going to die!” Death for us is entry into heaven, the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Anyone who kills us is simply projecting us into the party.
The Mass ends on a note of triumph, as the world will end. Those who remain faithful to the end will see “the Son of Man coming on the ‘clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory.” This motivates us to keep trying to transform society, regardless of cost. We fear not! Christ has conquered sin and death. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (see Matthew 24:1-31).
In Luke 18:35-43 a blind man asks Jesus to let him “see again.” Jesus answered, “Your faith has saved you.”
If those who have stopped assembling with us for Mass have enough faith to believe there is more in the Mass than they experienced—more than they even dreamed—and look for it with faith, they too will “see again.”
Initiative: See Mass as a receiving and a sending. Appreciate both.